Suicides by prisoners and warders 'linked'

First Edition

PRISON OFFICERS are more likely to commit suicide if their jails have a high suicide rate among inmates, according to an unpublished Home Office report, writes Marianne Macdonald.

The study of suicides among staff and adolescent offenders, Suicide Attempts in Male Prisons, by Dr Alison Liebling of the Institute of Criminology, Cambridge University, is to be published next month. It shows staff suicides have mirrored inmate suicides at establishments such as Risley remand centre and Brixton prison, which have had two or three of each.

The Home Office recently began recording prison officer suicides, but has not yet released any figures. But Dr Lieblings's research suggests that half of all officers know colleagues who have taken their own life, and a fifth of all officers know of colleagues who have attempted suicide.

Her research reveals systematic concealment of prison suicides; only two-thirds are named as such in coroners' records.

'Women were put in the no-suicide verdict category, so were the young, those who had injured themselves several times before, those who had not hanged themselves and those who had been taking different types of medication,' she said.

Instead, their deaths were recorded as misadventure or coroners recorded open verdicts.

The suicide rate of women in prison was equal to that of men. Women's suicide rate in the community was two-and-a-half times lower than in prison, which surprised the Home Office, she said.

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